Andy Abbott Lecture, University of Chicago
The last twenty years have seen the rise of considerable amounts of “digital scholarship” in the Humanities and the Social Sciences. Paralleling this is a far more fundamental change in the cognitive skills and experience that undergraduates bring to college. In this talk I review the causes, impact, and future of these changes. Careful theoretical analysis reveals that there are both strengths and weaknesses to the new forms of scholarship, and that most of the claimed strengths are illusory, at least at the advanced research level. Computational techniques permit a few tasks never before possible, but for the most part produce indecisive, unstable answers to traditional research questions. On the pedagogical side, the digital approach to knowing – which engages students from before their arrival in kindergarten - has reshaped the undergraduate mind in ways that require a complete rethinking of college pedagogy: It is not so much that we must teach in new ways but that we must teach the skills which undergraduates no longer can be assumed to have, given of their relatively minimal exposure to complex discursive argument. Our task is worsened by the intrusion of social media into the social world of the classroom itself. It is clear that nothing short of a complete restructuring of undergraduate pedagogy is necessary.
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